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What the Hell is… a tapeout?

Intel explains its inside plans

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We thought it was probably worth writing one of our irregular series about the chip companies' term "to tape out" because we received loads of letters from our many readers asking what the hell it meant. Some of them were very worried about a new verb being formed with the word tape inside, and they weren't thinking about earthworms, or any other members of the very large worm family. Five years ago, we found ourselves in Richardson, Texas, where then CEO Jerry Rodgers of Cyrix (an ex-TI guy) was at pains to tell us what the verb "to tape out" meant. His facility was small, at that time. Said Rodgers: "Look, you have this heap of chip designers working with software algorithms and when they feel it's right they can deliver this tape to the factory." (He didn't exactly say that, but that was the very tall Texan's meaning). The tape is actually a tape. It is a way the architects and designers deliver something to the famous fabs of semiconductor companies that can start in manufacturing. Today, Intel delivered its reasoning on the famous "tape out" verb, follow news it had taped out the infamous Merced IA64 processor, albeit a few weeks late. Said Intel: "Tapeout signals the completion of the initial processor design. Tapeout is a sequence of multiple steps. It indicates when the database that contains the design information is sent to begin the preparation of masks. Masks can be thought of as a template that is used in the semiconductor manufacturing process. Previous the database was a paper tape, which today has been replaced by an electronic carrier." We suppose then, that Intel has gone Internet wise on the Merced tape out. AMD could not be reached for comment because the insider told us at press time: "We are still double checking the financial figures". The figures will be out at 21:30PM UK time, tonight... ®

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